Gaza, Israeli attacks and rocket firing continue
In what has been described as “the worst wave of violence in a year”, Israeli bombings of Gaza and the launch of rockets from the enclave towards Israel continued in the early hours of Saturday morning.Friday, the Israeli army estimated it had killed at least 15 Islamic Jihad fighters in its attacks that began in the afternoon and which, according to the military, targeted weapons-manufacturing sites. Gaza’s health ministry confirmed 10 dead, including a five-year-old girl, and 75 injured. This is the most serious toll since the 11-day war in May 2021, which resulted in 260 Palestinian deaths, including fighters, and 14 deaths in Israel, including one soldier. The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said yesterday they fired “more than 100 rockets” on Israeli soil as a “first response” to the Israeli attacks that killed one of the group’s leaders, Tayssir Al-Jabari. Hundreds marched in a funeral procession for him and others who were killed, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for revenge. In southern Israel, warning sirens continue to sound. Israeli media showed the skies above southern and central Israel lighting up with rockets and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. An explosion was heard in Tel Aviv. It wasn’t immediately clear how many rockets were launched and there was no immediate word on any casualties on the Israeli side. In a televised speech, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country had launched the attacks based on “concrete threats”. Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have fought four wars and several smaller battles over the last 15 years at a staggering cost to the territory’s two million Palestinian residents.
Israel arrests 19 Islamic Jihad agents in the West Bank
Israeli forces have expanded their offensive against Islamic Jihad, announcing the arrest of 19 members of the group in the West Bank, while launching further attacks on militant targets in Gaza. The Israeli army reported in a statement that soldiers and agents of the Shin Bet domestic security agency arrested 20 people in morning raids Saturday in the occupied West Bank, “of which 19 are agents associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization”.
‘China simulated attacks on Taiwan’ – Taipei
China has simulated attacks against Taiwan, on the third day of large-scale military exercises around the island. This is what the Taipei Defense Ministry said, stating that several People’s Liberation Army fighters and ships were detected today “around the Strait”, with some “crossing the midline” in an action of “possible simulated attack”. The armed forces of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, have used, a statement read, “alert transmissions, aircraft, military patrol vessels and ground missile systems in response to this situation”.
US-China relations deteriorate
China’s firing of missiles during military drills around Taiwan was an unjustified escalation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as Beijing said it would impose sanctions on House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting the island. Diplomatic relations spiralled further downward on Friday, as China’s foreign ministry followed up by saying it could cancel dialogues between US and Chinese military leaders, and suspend bilateral talks on climate and maritime safety.
EU approves gas consumption reduction plan
Formal green light was given Friday to the EU Council regulation for the saving of gas consumption between August 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023. The plan provides for the voluntary reduction of 15% of the demand for natural gas for this winter. The regulation provides for the possibility for the Council to issue an “alert” on security of supply, in which case the reduction of gas demand would become mandatory. The formal green light came with the conclusion of the so-called written procedure which saw the “yeses” from 25 member states. Hungary and Poland voted against.
Sunak embroiled in embarassing video
Former UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, trailing behind Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in polls for Conservative leader and British prime minister, on Friday stumbled upon an embarrassing clockwork video leaked on the ‘New Statesman’ – a magazine traditionally close to Labour. The video, dating back to when Sunak was chancellor, appears to have been shot in a meeting with activists and donors held in Tunbridge Wells (Kent), in a wealthy area of the hinterland of London. There, the current aspiring prime minister is seen boasting of having transferred public funds to economically-vibrant areas such as Tunbridge Wells, taking them away from “depressed” regions deemed unproductive. among the Tory Party members who decide the outcome – having framed the economic policy debate to her advantage amid an acute cost of living crisis. The latest polls show Truss has widened her lead over Sunak: 58% of the approximately 180,000 Conservative Party members back her, compared to 26% who back Sunak and 12% who have not yet made up their minds.
Call for ‘full implementation’ of UN-backed grain deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Friday for the “full implementation” of a UN-backed deal to resume grain shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports after a four-hour meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. They agreed to boost cooperation in the transport, agriculture, finance and construction industries, they said in a joint statement. Turkey mediated a deal signed by Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations in Istanbul last month under which grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports resumed after months of being blocked. In a statement, Putin and Erdogan stressed the need for “the full implementation of the Istanbul agreement”. The two leaders also agreed to switch part of the payments for Russian gas to roubles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told reporters after the talks. Meanwhile, three more ships loaded with grain sailed from Ukraine on Friday.
‘Russia responsible for strikes at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant’
Ukrainian President Zelensky said Friday Russia must take responsibility for an “act of terror”, after Kiev and Moscow traded blame for strikes at Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Russia earlier accused Kiev’s forces of striking Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and charged that Zelensky’s government was committing acts of “nuclear terrorism”. The International Atomic Energy Agency this week said that the situation at the nuclear power plant was “volatile”. Russian troops took control of the Zaporizhzhia plant in March.
Greek intelligence chief resigns in espionage scandal
The director of the Greek intelligence services, Panagiotis Kontoleon, resigned Friday after an alleged espionage scandal exploded against a politician and a journalist carried out using the illegal software Predator. The resignation comes a week after the revelation of an attempt to overhear the conversations of the leader of the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok/Kinal), Nikos Androulakis, who is in the opposition, using Predator. The same ‘spyware’ was allegedly used to intercept the conversations of CNN Greece journalist Thanasis Koukakis, author of investigations into financial crimes. Earlier, the Prime Minister’s secretary general, Grigoris Dimitriadis, officially resigned to avoid “political speculation” on the case. The intelligence services in Greece depend on the premier’s office.
Alex Jones ordered to pay $50m for Sandy Hook hoax claim
US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $49.3m (€43m) in damages after falsely claiming a 2012 school shooting was a hoax. A jury in Texas ruled the radio host must pay $45.2m in punitive damages, in addition to $4.1m in compensatory damages they awarded a day earlier. The two-week defamation trial was brought by the parents of a child killed in the attack. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
The lawsuit was filed by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the separated parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the primary school shooting.